Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A collision between high art and commerciality

As you know, John Olsen is one of my favourite Australian artists.  His paintings make me feel like flying.  Even my son likes them, as I mentioned here.


Summer in the You Beaut Country (1962) National Gallery of Victoria

So my heart should have been gladdened at the news that as part of the Art Series Hotels, an Olsen Hotel is due to open just around the corner from me, in South Yarra, on 16 March.

The Art Series Hotels (leaving aside the name, which sounds like a Leeuwin Estate wine from the Margeret River) are high concept indeed. The idea is that an artist will lend his or her name to the hotel, which will be designed to 'showcase their art' and be furnished in the spirit of and to reflect that artist's style and character. 

So far, there is a Cullen Hotel in Prahran (artist Adam Cullen, now 43, is sometimes called an enfant terrible (always a bad sign) who paints what he describes as men and women from 'Loserville') and soon to be a Blackman (as in Charles Blackman) in St Kilda Road Melbourne.

Blackman is perhaps best known for his Alice series of paintings from the 1950s.  He is now over 80:


'Feet beneath the Table' 1956 National Gallery of Victoria

The Cullen Hotel has been completed for about a year.    Here is an example of Cullen's work - the portrait of actor David Wenham for which he won the Archibald Prize in 2000:



The Cullen is nothing short of ugly on the outside but some of the rooms look interesting - I have that little crystally stool thing (well a knock off anyway) at home:




This is all a bit challenging for me.  I simply can't decide whether I love or loathe this idea.   On one view it brings these artists (whom some may consider operate in the more elite sections of our society) into a mainstream area, and exposes their work to many who may not otherwise see it.  

On another view, is an 'Art Hotel' lowering the tone of such wonderful art, or devaluing its currency? Perhaps it is just an acknowledgement that today, art, like everything, indeed like people, is now all just a brand, to be bought, sold, partnered, diffused, brought down market then elevated again, or otherwise exploited.   What's next - the Angelina Jolie Amanresort in Namibia? 

Or perhaps it is just none of my business.  Maybe it is high time that these artists who are perhaps not as accessible as they could or should be, get their moment in the sun.   And I for one would never deny them that. 

Here is a rendering of the hotel once complete (architects Rothe Lowman, who designed the extension to our house as it happens):


Here is a bedroom - you can see behind the bed some characteristic Olsen squiggles.


Final thought - that well hidden entrepreunerial side of me thinks: good on you Will Deague for having such an original idea, and the courage of your convictions to actually follow it through. 

5 comments:

Dumbwit Tellher said...

I hate to remark without giving this concept of art hotels more thought. I think you gave two great arguments to both side of this deal. I can say that the architecture for the Olsen by Rothe Lowman is incredible. How magnificent that this firm designed the extension to your home. I'd be thrilled! Great post Jane. It fuels my love of architecture.
Have a terrific Wed. xx

mise said...

It's certainly an original idea, and one that will generate a lot of interest. I'm instinctively all for it - I don't like elitism in art and am happy that high-brow (for which often read 'expensive' art) should be made mass market compatible in this way. I don't think it takes away at all from the artistry of the artist. Could we have opera-themed elevators next?

Ange said...

I'm with Mise - would like an Opera themed elevator. If ever I become famous - does that mean they'll build a Negro hotel??? hahahaha

Jacqueline said...

Dear Jane,
I really like the idea. It brings art to more people and that can only be a good thing. I just don't want 'the unmade bed' by Tracey Emin to be the room allocated to me when I book in !!!! haha. XXXX

brismod said...

I understand what you mean about feeling conflicted with the art hotel concept. But there are so few ways for artists to earn a decent income stream - so I'm all for it. And besides, the art in most of the chain hotels is average to say the least. This would be a big improvement.

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